Blending and dyeing
Colours and blends…
Alpaca comes in a wonderful range of natural colours, and also takes dye beautifully (the colours are often a bit more muted that when using the same dyestuffs on sheep wool, but we really like that). So there are endless opportunities for combining and creating colours.
We can blend natural colours to broaden the colour palette from your own herd or to produce a specific shade for a special project. You need surprisingly little of a darker shade to dramatically change the colour of a light coloured fleece – just 10% black with white will give a nice silver grey, and once you get to 50%, it will be quite a dark charcoal. A touch of brown with light fawn will give a lovely biscuity shade. Our favourite is ‘fake’ rose grey – about 20% dark brown and no more than 5% black with white, giving a lovely subtle pinky grey.
Combining small fleeces can also reduce the amount of fibre lost from very small batches and increase your overall return rate. The only rule is that the fleeces should be of a similar fineness and staple length – otherwise, if the fibre separator does its job properly, it will literally separate out the coarser or shorter of the fleeces!
We can get different colour effects depending on when in the process we blend the fleeces. Right at the start, and the colour will be smoothly blended. At the carder, the colour will be pretty even, but with a slight heathery effect. At the drafting stage (just before spinning) will give a tweedy effect, where it’s possible to still see distinct flecks of the different colours. Or if we spin the colours separately and then ply two or three different colours together, we get a barberpole yarn. (Please note that, because tweed and barberpole yarns involve lots of small subdivisions of the batch, they are quite time- consuming to make, so attract an additional charge of £15 per batch.)
So there are loads of options before we even go near a dyepot, and there a whole rainbow awaits! Although we love using natural plant dyes, this involves such a lot of processes (and therefore costs) that it’s only really suitable for finished yarn, which we use for special weaving projects. For fibre, we use acid dyes (the ‘acid’ there just refers to the vinegar that we use to fix the dye), cooked up 500g at a time in large stock pots in the mill kitchen.
Pretty much any colour is possible with acid dyes, and of course all of the colour effects discussed above can also be made using dyed fleece, or a mixture of dyed and natural colours (blending the dyed fleece back with naturals is our favourite way to make a range of subtle and interesting colours). So from just 1 kg or so of dyed fleece, you could end up with 5 kg of coloured yarn, in a range of shades or effects.
Dyeing costs £42 per kg, with a minimum batch size of 500g. For inspiration, please see our own yarn range in the Mill Shop or give us a call to discuss your ideas.
Blending different fibres
We love experimenting with different fibres, and our own yarn range (see the Mill Shop) includes blends of alpaca with silk, mohair, merino, and rose fibre (a viscose-type fibre made in the same way as bamboo, but with cellulose from crushed rose stems). Adding wool to alpaca can produce a lighter, more elastic yarn; adding rose fibre gives a wonderful silkiness and also enables us to spin it more finely. Or if we're starting with sheep wool, adding alpaca gives a touch of luxurious softness, and also opens up a whole range of natural colour options.
Please call or email if you'd like to discuss a blend. We're happy to blend your own fleeces of different types or supply the blending fibre for you. There's no charge for blending, just the usual processing charge plus the cost of the fibre. You can find our prices for a variety of fibres here, but we can source others, so please let us know if you don't see what you're looking for.